Flying Mounts In WoW

The Burning Crusade has been out since January 2007, which makes it nearly seven years old. Since that time, there has always been a contingient of people on every new MMO forum who scream, "Where are the flying mounts? I keep getting hit by mobs!" I, like most everyone else, always scoffed and thought, "Just run around the mobs. Jeez. We don’t need no stinkin’ flying mounts."

Flash forward to today, when my Hunter finally bought a flying mount on the Hellfire Penninsula. I’ve been slowly leveling him since I first started playing WoW, which was, coincidentally enough, somewhere around 2007. (Actually I think it was 2008.) Anyway, he’s 64 now and I still occasionally break him out and grind through some quests to inch slowly forward toward where I can enter the second oldest expansion area. One day I found myself standing in front of the flying mount vendor with 225 gold burning a hole in my pocket, so I bought a white griffin.

Holy crap. Flying is awesome! Why doesn’t every MMO have this??

Just kidding. Sort of. Flying is awesome in WoW but I think it’s because it takes so frickin’ long to get places. And that’s usually because quest objectives are all the way across the map from where the quest hub is. I’m thinking specifically of Zangarmarsh here (or whatever it’s called) since that’s my most recent experience. If I had to run all the way through that swamp all the time it would drive me crazy. The mobs in there are not even a tiny bit threatening to my Hunter, but it would still be annoying to run through them or even around them. With a flying mount, you just jump into the air, hit numlock, and go get a drink until you reach your destination.

So in a nutshell, now I understand why everyone thinks flying mounts are awesome, but I don’t think they are as much a necessity in other MMOs as they are in WoW.

(Fun fact: For most of the past seven years, I’ve thought that the WoW BC expansion was actually named Burning Chrome. I think it’s because I once played against a Quake clan called Burning Chrome [BC] way back in the day. Imagine my surprise when I opened up Wikipedia and typed in "Burning Chrome" to look up the game’s release date and found that Burning Chrome is actually a short story by William Gibson.)

Is WoW Leveling Really That Fast?

So my WoW mage has Enchanting as a profession, and he’d leveled way past the point where he could disenchant the magic items he picked up at the measely skill level of 15. I had a couple of other characters in the 25-30 range that I could have used to farm items from dungeons, but I didn’t think those items would be any better. So I got the brilliant idea that I would level another character to 15 and just keep doing dungeon instances and send all the excess low-level magic items that I picked up to my mage.

This was not a brilliant idea, as it turns out. Little did I realize that you can also raise your Enchanting skill by, you know, enchanting items, in addition to disenchanting. So I really didn’t need low-level items in the first place. But that’s not really the point of this post.

For my first failure, I made a Tauren Shaman and leveled him all the way up to 11 before I realized that … wah, wah … you can’t mail things from a Horde player to an Alliance player. Bleh. That’s annoying. In Rift, they removed that restriction a long time ago, and I just assumed that WoW would have moved past it as well. My options were to pay $30 for a faction change, or start over.

For my second failure, I went with a Dwarven Hunter so I could power through to 15 as fast as possible. I got to 15 and sent my mage 6 excess magic items and then he was able to get his skill level up over 25, and from there he was able to disenchant items I had in the bank, and then I realized I had tons of material to enchant bracers, so in the end I got my mage’s skill up over 75 so he can disenchant his own items again. End result: Didn’t need the hunter anymore, and he never went into a single dungeon. That’s not really the point of this post either.

The point is: If you didn’t know, hunters in WoW are the ones with the iwin button. My "main" is a level 63 hunter and it’s just embarassing how fast he burns through mobs in BC territory. It’s slightly more difficult starting out with a hunter because you don’t have as much focus, but not much. For the record, it took me about 5 hours and 30 minutes of /played time to get my new hunter up to 15, including some AFK breaks. People say that leveling in WoW is super fast since Cataclysm, but 5:30 doesn’t seem as fast as some other recent MMOs I’ve played. I mean, you can get from 1-15 in Rift in like two hours or less.

I guess that’s the real point of this post: WoW leveling doesn’t seem all that fast to me.

When WoW Tanks Go Rogue

I had an odd, somewhat amusing experience in WoW recently. I’ve been playing a lot of dungeon instances lately, partly because I’ve never actually done any WoW dungeons before, and partly because I wanted to level a mage without going through the hassle of soloing. Almost every instance has been an enjoyable, workmanlike experience … until this tank decided to be an ass.

So the random dungeon selector came up with the Scarlet Monastary. Or maybe it was the Scarlet Halls. I can’t remember. They all run together. It was the one that starts out with those piles of corpses and zombies which most people just run around, but the second we stepped into this instance we were beset by flaming zombies and fighting for our lives. That usually happens when somebody doesn’t circumvent that first area, so I figured somebody was trying to do a quest I didn’t know about, or somebody was panicking, or somebody just didn’t know what was going on.

It went on and on … and I’m getting hit over and over, and I start thinking that this tank is not holding aggro very well, which is annoying but it happens. Then I notice someone running all around pulling mobs all over the place, while the other four of us are standing literally in the exact spot where you zone in fighting a swarm of mobs. I thought it was a panicking DPS trying to get away from people hitting him, because DPS tend to freak out whenever someone lands a hit on them.

We got through that, probably thanks to the fantastic work of the healer. (I just know it wasn’t any fantastic work from me; my mage seems largely useless to me.) Then we move forward … and it happens again. We got swarmed with mobs and the tank wasn’t holding aggro.

That’s when I saw it: The tank was running all over pulling mobs … and not fighting them. The rest of us engaged the mobs when we saw the tank pulling, as anyone would, and then the mobs immediately turned and attacked us. It was especially bad with the first boss. Now normally I give tanks a lot of slack, because it’s a crap job that nobody wants to do. But this went far beyond bad tanking.

This tank was trolling us.

Now I suppose it’s possible that somebody’s 5-year-old kid hijacked their account and jumped into a dungeon as a tank and wandered around aimlessly sight-seeing, not even realizing that he or she was playing a game with other people. But that seems like a stretch.

Now here’s why this is a particularly heinous troll: If you’re not a tank, you’ve probably been waiting in the LFG queue for a while, so it’s quite a letdown to find out that time’s been wasted. And if you kick the tank, you run the risk of not getting another one anytime soon, because, as we all know, tanks are the least desirable position to play in a PUG. So you end up having to run the rest of the instance without a tank anyway.

The other problem is that apparently you can’t vote-kick someone if they are in combat or recently in combat. So this dude could just keep engaging mobs indefinitely to avoid getting kicked.

Eventually we all collectively realized that if we stopped attacking any mobs ourselves, the mobs would keep hitting the tank and eventually he would die, and then we could vote-kick him. Which is what ended up happening, because this tank apparently had no ability to heal himself. We then soldiered on through the rest of the instance by ourselves, because sure enough, no new tank arrived. We used someone’s VoidWalker as a sort-of substitute tank. It was messy and slow, but we got through it. Amazingly, none of the other four of us died during the entire time, which I guess goes to show just how easy WoW instances are below level 30.

Halloween in the MMO

Autumn (aka. Halloween) celebrations are a staple of modern MMORPGs.

A low polygon count Halloween with Gnuhcgnaw
A low polygon count Halloween
Has anyone seen my decaying Undead flesh? I seem to have lost it.
Has anyone seen my decaying Undead flesh? I seem to have lost it.
Winner for tallest pumpkin in an MMO
Winner for tallest pumpkin in an MMO.
Is this scythe big enough to pick pumpkins?
Is this scythe big enough to pick pumpkins?
Quite possibly the strangest ghost costume ever created
Ye gods what is that?
Ye gods what is that?

(I was going to put another picture captioned “It’s always Halloween in Kingsmouth!” but I couldn’t find my screenshot.)

WoW Doesn't Take Itself Seriously

Playing WoW again recently, it dawned on me why it’s been so popular. It’s a good game and all, and it’s more addictive than blue meth, but I think that one of the main things that pushes it over the top from niche game to mainstream hit is: It doesn’t take itself seriously.

Most people would probably be embarassed to admit that they play a game involving elves and dwarves and knights and dragons. Society tells us that those things are for kids, or hardcore D&D nerds, and those guys are weird. (At least they were when I was growing up.) WoW said to the world, hey all that stuff is stupid, right? We’re going to make fun of that in our game. We’re going to put in quests with ridiculous characters who say silly things and make meta jokes about pop culture and anything we can think of to keep this from being a serious fantasy world. Our trolls are going to be Jamaican stoners. Our Undead are going to be necrophiliacs. Our dwarves are going to be Scottish highlanders. It’s all just going to be a big silly cartoon. So nobody will have to pretend that they’re really playing in a fantasy world, and it’ll be okay for normal people to enjoy it. (Normal as in not a D&D nerd.)

Well, it’s a theory. Most MMOs try to build an immersive fantasy world and an immersive story where you are the hero that saves the world. But when you run around reading the quests in WoW, they are so silly that it’s impossible to take them seriously. I’m thinking of the Gnomeregan dungeon where all the inhabitants are thinly-disguised references to the 80s show The A-Team.

I think my theory will be put to the test when WildStar comes out. My inital reaction so far has been, "Ewww, that looks just like WoW." And all the promotional material thusfar has had the same cartoony, doesn’t-take-itself-seriously attitude as WoW. So based on my theory, WildStar should be a runaway hit and ESO, which is a more traditional, immersive fantasy world for D&D nerds, will become an afterthought.

WoW, Relaxing Trinquility

Perhaps as a result of a post on Inventory Full and a post on Herding Cats, I found myself playing WoW over the weekend. It was not one of my better weekends in terms of getting productive things done in my life, but I choose to think of that as the cause of playing WoW, rather than the effect. Anyway, I made a number of observations about WoW as compared to more modern MMOs.

It’s Huge. The game world is enormous, and there is a lot of running from place to place. That, I think, is the primary cause of people spending so much time in WoW. It simply takes a long time to get things done. You can’t just jump in and spend 15 minutes knocking out a few quests. You have to commit to spending some time in the game. My original hunter is now level 61 and on that Hell Penninsula I swear I must have spent twenty minutes just riding hippogryphs to get to the places I needed to go. (Once I accidentally clicked the wrong destination and had to fly somewhere and back. Talk about a groaner.)

It’s Grindy. WoW is quite grindy at times, particularly on the quests where you have to get X number of items from monster corpses. Because on those quests, the item only drops from the monster a certain percentage of the time, which never seems to be more than 50%. So if you need to pick up 10 foozle feet, you have to kill at least 20 foozles to finish the quest. Most modern MMOs don’t do that anymore, and boy are we glad.

It’s Difficult. WoW is actually kind of hard, if you’re not in the swing of it. You can’t just go walking out into the wilderness without a plan, particularly on the character I was playing who was a lowbie gnome mage. It’s hard to run away from monsters, it’s hard to see monsters, and it’s super easy to aggro other monsters. Sometimes you’ll be walking along and run right into the aggro range of a super elite boss, and next thing you know you’re doing a corpse run.

Respawn Is Slow. Along with the grindy bits above, the respawn rate for monsters is extremely slow. So say you have a quest to kill 10 foozles. If someone else has already been to the foozle camp recently and killed them, you have to stand there and wait for them to respawn. God forbid someone else is there waiting with you, because then you end up in a competition to tag the foozles when they spawn.

Classes Are Limited. You would think that a game that’s fifty years old would have limitless class possibilities and gameplay options, but it doesn’t. The classes are quite rigid, and there aren’t very many to pick from. It actually seems to me that some of the classes (eg. the mage I was playing) are not suitable for solo play at all. I haven’t played a warrior much lately but historically I also found it hard to play solo. Generally I’m only comfortable soloing with a pet class. Back in the day, I had to roll a hunter because it was the only way I could get anywhere in the game.

Addons Are Mandatory. Good lord there are a lot of addons, and you really need them, because the native WoW interface is kind of bad. Almost everything you’re used to in a modern MMO is missing in native WoW. You even need an addon for the dead simple core action of comparing an item in your inventory to an item you’re wearing.

I left out some other problems, like constantly running out of inventory space, and the inconvenience of banking. After that list of complaints you might wonder why on earth anyone would subject themselves to WoW.

It’s fun. :) The repetitiveness has a relaxing tranquility to it.